Sacrilege, Treason, Treachery & Thyme
If there is a party at the end of the world (and there will be, right?) then count on Samuel Locke-Ward to send out the invitations. With his new record, Sacrilege, Treason, Treachery & Thyme, he further establishes himself as not only a harbinger of doom but also the host with the most, turning moody and deeply paranoid songs into country foot-stompers, pop anthems, and straight-up sing-alongs. But no matter what the tune, the album, at its core, is very serious. Like any good party, there are political conversations side-by-side with embarrassing behavior, everyone using their eyes to either undress or stab each other until things end in total collapse. This record is all of those things and more, and yes, it’s a concept album that plays out beautifully. This is a shining portrait of neuroticism in a post-freedom (fries) world.
Album opener “Now (We Have Won)” sets the mood with a scathing critique of domestic and foreign policies fueled by religious fervor, hatred, and violence. That the song is sung from the perspective of the people who believe in these policies makes it all the more striking. “Blood in the streets / Tears in your face / Now now now we have won” is as good a paraphrase of Bush’s policies as I’ve ever seen. Blood is a theme here, as the two longest tracks (“Bleed 1” and “Bleed 2”) are where the album’s themes get developed most fully. “Bleed 1” moves along a plodding, deliberate pace, laid down on a trap kit. Locke-Ward pushes his versatile voice to the breaking point, resulting in a sound not unlike Will Sheff in some of his finer moments. (Of course, that Sheff also recorded a fine anti-Bush song in “The President’s Dead” is also worth mentioning.)
“Big Brain” is a nostalgic 90s rock piece that marks the run-up to the album’s furious conclusion. The album’s last 15 minutes are the finest since the first two (the album has 18 tracks in 50 minutes), culminating with “Bleed 2.” Narrated more than sung, it’s the story of a day in the life of someone who just can’t take it any more. It’s great.
This is technically Locke-Ward’s sixth solo record, but the fact that he has so many great friends makes the album more rewarding, and his dark visions more fully realized. Pete Balestrieri of the Violent Femmes plays sax, Will Whitmore takes his turn at the mic, as does Shame Train’s Sam Knutson. Kate Kate of Lipstick Homicide plays guitar, and Ed Gray lends his electric guitar strings as well as his voice. It’s tour only and DIY as hell (CD-R with photocopied sleeve), so go see Samuel and the Boo-Hoo’s on tour, buy the record, listen to it, and raise your fist.